Research shows we want to receive sentimental presents – but we’re too afraid to actually give them.
It really is the thought that counts.
Gift givers tend to play it safe by buying superficial presents, like a jersey from someone’s favorite sports team. Yet a new study appearing in the Journal for Consumer Psychology reveals that what we really want is something more sentimental, like a photo of a special memory.
In a series of experiments, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University gave one group of subjects – the givers – the choice between giving a close friend a photo of their bud’s favorite musician, or a framed pic of the BFFs on a day where they had a lot of fun together. Another group of subjects – the recipients – were asked to pick which gift they would prefer to get.
And the givers were more likely to select the musician photo – even though the recipients really wanted the besties snap.
Researchers repeated the experiment with romantic partners. They asked the givers to choose between presenting a gift card to their significant other’s favorite store, or a photo of the couple with their carved initials in the frame. Once again, the givers chose the generic gift certificate over the personalized present, much to the recipients’ disappointment.
So where is this disconnect coming from? The researchers performed yet a third test, where one group of subjects wrote about a time when they took a risk that paid off. The other group wrote about a time when taking a risk that failed. Then the groups had to choose between two bicycles to give a friend: One with sentimental value, and one made by a brand the recipient liked. And those whose risks worked were more likely to put themselves out there with the sentimental bike over those who remembered failing; they stuck with what they thought was the safer, preferred brand.
“Essentially, givers seem to view sentimentally valuable gifts as having the potential to be either home runs or strikeouts,” wrote Julian Givi, lead author of the study. “Rather than risking a strikeout, they go for the sure thing, when what recipients truly desire are sentimentally valuable gifts.”
The bottom line: Get sappy.
People spent $658.3 billion on gifts for holiday 2016, yet surveys show that almost three-quarters of Americans often don’t like something they get. And almost half of surveyed recipients (42%) told Consumer Reports last year that they had returned a present.
So rather than wasting time and money on something showy and predictable, take a step back and consider crafting something personal, or making a touching gesture. After all, more than 1 in 10 mothers (13%) said their most-wanted Mother’s Day gift this year was a day off.
Talk about priceless.
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